The DSM IV diagnostic criteria for autism include the following:

I. A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction

B. Qualitative impairment in communication

C. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities

II. Onset is prior to age three.

What do those mean from an autistic point of view? Some examples:

I. A. Difficulty understanding social situations; lack of awareness of social conventions; lack of interest in social conventions even if aware of them; little or no responsiveness to external approval or disapproval; inability or disinclination to relate to large numbers of people, but deep, meaningful relationships with a few people who are able to form individualized, non-prefabricated connections with the autistic person

B. Difficulty with some combination of content or mechanics of language use, including grammar, vocabulary, fluency of responding, and/or identifying significant features of what people are talking about; difficulty interpreting nonverbal cues such as facial expression, body language, tone of voice; absent or abnormal production of nonverbal cues; special problems with interpreting and expressing emotional signals

C. Intense focus of attention on topics of special interest; lack of awareness or interest in topics that are of interest to most people; difficulty remaining oriented when environment or routine is changed

II. Having been autistic since birth (or at the very latest, late infancy), the person does perceive and experience a "different world" than the one most people live in--and being *native* to that world, the person has little identification with non-autistic standards of normality.

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